You Can Do Bet­ter If You Think So

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If you be­lieve that you are never good enough, there’s a good chance you have never per­formed well, sug­gests a re­cent study.

Telling your­self “I can do bet­ter,” can re­ally make you do bet­ter at a given task, the study found. Over 44,000 peo­ple took part in an ex­per­i­ment to dis­cover what mo­ti­va­tional tech­niques re­ally worked. In con­junc­tion with BBC Lab UK, Pro­fes­sor An­drew Lane and his col­leagues tested which phys­i­o­log­i­cal skills would help peo­ple im­prove their scores in an on­line game. This com­plex study ex­am­ined if one mo­ti­va­tional method would be more ef­fec­tive for any spe­cific as­pect of a task.

The meth­ods tested were self-talk, imagery, and if-then plan­ning. Each of these psy­cho­log­i­cal skills was ap­plied to one of four parts of a com­pet­i­tive task: process, out­come, arousal-con­trol, and in­struc­tion.

Peo­ple us­ing self-talk, for ex­am­ple telling your­self “I can do bet­ter next time” – per­formed bet­ter than the con­trol group in ev­ery por­tion of the task. The great­est im­prove­ments were seen in self-talk-out­come (telling your­self, “I can beat my best score”), self-talk-process (telling your­self, “I can re­act quicker this time”), imagery-out­come (imag­in­ing your­self play­ing the game and beat­ing your best score), and imagery-process (imag­in­ing your­self play­ing and re­act­ing quicker than last time). They also found a short mo­ti­va­tional video could im­prove per­for­mance. Par­tic­i­pants watched a short video be­fore play­ing the on­line game. The coach for these videos was, none other than, four-time Olympic gold medal­ist Michael John­son, an ath­lete known for ad­vo­cat­ing men­tal pre­pared­ness in ad­di­tion to phys­i­cal train­ing. If-then plan­ning was found to be one of the least suc­cess­ful of this study, de­spite be­ing an ef­fec­tive tool in weight man­age­ment and other real life chal­lenges. Pro­fes­sor Lane said: “Work­ing on, ‘Can You Com­pete?’ was in­spi­ra­tional and ed­u­ca­tional; since we have been de­vel­op­ing on­line in­ter­ven­tions to help peo­ple man­age their emo­tions and do­ing this across a range of spe­cific con­texts from de­liv­er­ing a speech to fight­ing in a boxing ring, from tak­ing an exam to go­ing into dan­ger­ous places.” The study is pub­lished in Fron­tiers in Psy­chol­ogy.

Photo: In­dian Ex­press

Telling your­self “I can do bet­ter,” can re­ally make you do bet­ter at a given task, the study found.

Photo: In­dian Ex­press

Im­pos­si­ble is noth­ing.

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